This week an apparently significant conference took place in London, sponsored at our expense by the Government and headlined by MP for Horsham and Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude. The Conference was called #D5London and the 5 indicated the number of nations involved in the same way as the G20 refers to the ‘Group’ of the 20 largest economies. The question one might ask is what does D stand for and what are these 5 nations? The 5 nations are the UK along with South Korea, Estonia, Israel and New Zealand. According to the blurb from the relevant Government website “The UK is hosting the first summit of a new global network called D5 on 9 to 10 December 2014. This is a group of some of the most digitally advanced governments in the world.” so apparently our Government is taking the lead in this important initiative.
I became aware of the conference via twitter which may not be the most comprehensive of communication mechanisms but it is certainly digital. The Cabinet Office and a twitter account called the Government Digital Service (GDS) were both announcing the imminent arrival of the conference and at various times they invited engagement via twitter from those of us not invited or included in the two day event.
“Submit questions using # to get answers on why a thriving digital economy is important and ways to support growth” was one of the tweets.
My own question was not one I expected would lead to a ground-breaking response but it was intended to be sincere nevertheless. It was centred around the figure head of this digital government initiative. Mr Maude is one of a number of MPs and Ministers who has so far distanced himself from the social media revolution by ‘failing’ to adopt an account on twitter and his facebook presence is limited to a page (rather than an interactive account) that is managed by someone else (or by Francis writing in the third person for much of the time). The account is used exclusively for ‘broadcasting’ what he does rather than engaging with other users of facebook in any. So I simply posed the question
In one sense I would have expected a tongue in cheek defence of something that I consider to be very serious. Much has been made of the ability (or lack of it) of our world leaders to write code, yet something as basic as twitter or a proper facebook presence is hardly a high threshold of engagement. To date despite several further tweets mentioning that I have not had a response, I have had no contact from the Cabinet Office and I know from another tweeter that I am not alone. Yet the number of people using the hashtag #D5London is very small and it would not take a civil servant ‘on duty’ for this task more than about 10 minutes to go back over all of the tweets and respond to the 2 or 3 of us who did take their invitation seriously. Perhaps the Cabinet Office will be better prepared for digital engagement when they hold the next D5 conference, or maybe this was a one off?